May 20, 2022

Cross-country flights for 15-minute appearances have some attorneys dreading a return to in-person proceedings.

As lawyers return to the office this summer, some are wondering—or hoping the same won’t be said for their usual docket of court hearings.

Conversations with litigators showed a mix of hesitation and joy at the idea of returning to courtrooms as the COVID-19 pandemic appears to subside and courts prepare to resume normal operations.

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Ultimately, much like return-to-office protocols, a hybrid approach with some processes remaining virtual might be the most likely outcome—especially in a challenging and emotionally taxing field like the law.

“We lose great talent every year because the life of a litigator is not sustainable for many lawyers,” said Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll Partner and Harvard Law adjunct professor Betsy Miller. She said the pandemic opened the door to innovative options for change-resistant courts, and rolling back some long-running barriers to access could help those who struggle with an already demanding profession.

“Hybrid access to courts, where some matters are presented remotely and others in person, is the wave of the future,” she said. “Just because we did it one way in the past doesn’t mean that’s the best way forward.”

Click through to read's This Could Have Been a Zoom Hearing: Some Litigators Dread Returning to the Courtroom.”